Michael Hooper to serve one-match punching ban in club game

Australia captain will be available to play All Blacks in decider

Australia captain Michael Hooper will be available to play New Zealand in The Rugby Championship decider as he will serve his one-match ban in a club game. Photograph:  Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Australia captain Michael Hooper will be available to play New Zealand in The Rugby Championship decider as he will serve his one-match ban in a club game. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

 

Rugby’s disciplinary processes are set to come under further scrutiny after it was announced that Australia captain Michael Hooper will be allowed serve his one-match punching ban in a club game. The backrow forward is now available for the Rugby Championship decider against New Zealand.

Hooper floored Nicolas Sanchez after striking the Argentina outhalf in the second half of Saturday’s 34-9 victory in Mendoza, lashing out in response to Sanchez pulling his shirt.

A Sanzar disciplinary hearing decided the blow was struck with an “open hand” and issued a two-week suspension which was halved due to Hooper’s previous good record.

The openside is free to face the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday week as he has been selected on the bench for Manley in a club match against Randwick this weekend.

“I found this match (Manley v Randwick) could not be considered inconsequential and would have meaningful consequence for Hooper given his current competition and rotation within the Australian squad,” judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC said.

Critics will argue that Australia have manipulated the disciplinary process as Hooper was highly unlikely to have played for Manley had he not been cited. Furthermore, the blow landed was substantial enough to flatten Sanchez.

“It was found that Hooper, in circumstances of considerable frustration and in order to try and rid himself of his opponent, drew back his free right arm and struck out at the opponent’s head and neck area with his open hand,” Hampton said.

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